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Primary prevention of family violence and violence against women

Research priority.

It is more important to prevent a problem rather than spending a lot of money, time, lives lost [and] children’s lives destroyed in trying to correct the problem in the aftermath.

Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council
Rolling Action Plan workshop, August 2020

On average, one woman per week is killed in Australia by a current or former male partner. Primary prevention is a long-term agenda that aims to prevent family violence and violence against women from ever happening in the first instance.

Primary prevention works by identifying and addressing the underlying drivers of violence – the forms of discrimination and inequalities that are present in the social norms, structures and practices that create environments where violence is more likely to occur.1

Everyone has a role to play, from grassroots community-based organisations to women’s health services, education providers, sporting associations, the arts, workplaces, all levels of government, local communities and individuals.

Family violence and all forms of violence against women are driven by particular expressions of gender inequality and other forms of discrimination that give rise to power imbalances.

Whilst there is solid knowledge on some aspects about primary prevention of family violence and violence against women, there are still major gaps in knowledge and evidence on ‘what works’. There is a robust and still-evolving evidence base for addressing men’s violence against women and an understanding of the gendered drivers of this violence.2 However, there is relatively limited evidence for preventing other types of violence within the family context, outside the common dynamic of male perpetrator and female victim survivor.

Further evidence is required to understand how systemic inequality and forms of discrimination:

  • interact with the gendered drivers and reinforcing factors of men’s violence against women
  • drive family violence outside the common male to female dynamic.

The overarching priority for primary prevention research should be strengthening our understanding of the drivers and contributing factors of family violence and violence against women, with an intersectional lens.

This may include exploration of systemic inequality and forms of discrimination and how they drive and perpetuate family violence and violence against women.

This includes but is not limited to:

  • sexism
  • impact of colonisation and dispossession
  • racism, xenophobia and ethnocentrism
  • ableism
  • homophobia, biphobia transphobia and intersex discrimination
  • heteronormativity and cisnormativity
  • ageism
  • classism
  • adult-child power dynamic
  • other forms of discrimination, inequality and stigma.

Research should also explore how such inequality and forms of discrimination play out via structures, norms and practices at various levels in society – individual and relationship level, organisational and community level, system and institutional level and at a societal level.

Research may also explore the different settings in which such inequality and forms of discrimination occur, as well as where primary prevention interventions need to implemented, for example:

  • education and care settings for children and young people
  • universities, TAFEs and other tertiary education institutions
  • workplaces, corporations and employee organisations
  • sports, recreation, social and leisure spaces
  • art and cultural spaces
  • health, family and community services
  • faith-based contexts
  • media
  • popular culture, advertising and entertainment
  • public spaces, transport, infrastructure and facilities
  • legal, justice and corrections contexts.

Critically all primary prevention research apply principles of intersectionality – namely it should meaningfully recognise that forms of discrimination and systems of oppression do not exist in isolation from one other.

Further research, alongside monitoring and evaluation, is required to better understand ‘what works’ in the primary prevention of family violence and violence against women.

Research into critical elements of primary prevention work may include topics such as:

  • backlash and resistance
  • the role of bystanders
  • continuing to track community attitudes and behaviours relating to the primary prevention of family violence and violence against women, etc.3

Additional research to support primary prevention action relating to particular forms of family violence and violence against women would be beneficial, for example, including but not limited to:

  • sexual assault and harm
  • the role of coercive control as an underpinning element of family violence and violence against women.

This research agenda recognises children and young people as victim survivors in their own right, and the need to better understand the drivers of such violence. Research into the drivers of adolescent violence and/or sexually abuse behaviours in the home and/or in intimate partner relationships is also underexplored.

The priority areas for government and other stakeholders who undertake research are:

  • the drivers and contributing factors of family violence and violence against women
  • particular forms of family violence and violence against women to support primary prevention action
  • ‘what works’ in primary prevention.

This research will build evidence for a shared understanding and approach to stopping family violence and violence against women from occurring in the first instance.

References

  1. Our Watch, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) and VicHealth (2015) Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia, Our Watch, Melbourne, Australia.
  2. Ibid.
  3. The National Community Attitudes to Violence Against Women Survey, led by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, currently tracks attitudes and knowledge relating to violence against women. It also gauges attitudes to gender equality and people’s preparedness to intervene when witnessing violence or its precursors.

Reviewed 21 February 2022

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